Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Eliabeth Badinter - Is intensive mothering a step backwards for feminism?

I’ve written about this before, but the book has just been released in English in Australia. .
You might have seen this article in the Good Weekend.


In 2005 Judith Warner published a book called Perfect Madness: Motherhood in the Age of Anxiety. In it she compared mothering in France with mothering in the USA. Warner spent her first three years of motherhood in France, where there is a free public health service, extended maternity leave, affordable nannies, affordable pre-schools, everybody sends their kids to the local public school, and the working week is capped at 35 hours. Mothers lived a balanced life and there was no mention of guilt. Returning to the USA she found mothers depressed, stressed, obsessed with trivia, unable to afford the quality childcare that could release them back into the workforce, trying to be perfect, looking and feeling old and tired, and blaming themselves for their inadequacies. In the USA mothers are constantly questioned by media messages and children are the centre of the family’s lives. In France, children eat in the kitchen and play in their rooms, while adults talk together in the loungeroom. In the USA children have delegated playrooms and the adults schedule adult time around them. Of course, in the USA, individual responsibility is championed, rather than changing to socially progressive polices.

Now, French philosopher feminist Elisabeth Badinter states in her book (released in Europe two years ago) The Conflict: the Woman and the Mother that motherhood as it is in France now is bad for feminism. She blames the environmental movement (cooking organic baby food and washing cloth nappies is time consuming), the focus on children rather than women, attachment parenting, the dietary advice to pregnant women, the advice to breastfeed for two years, and all the expert advice on raising children as if they are vulnerable creatures who can blame any psychological issues on their mothers. She says French women have caught the guilt bug.

She has a point.

Badinter says it is important for women to be financially independent. She’s not alone there.

She champions the mediocre mother, because the perfect mother doesn’t exist. Too right.

But, if things have changed for mothers in France, without a change in social policies, I think we can look to some other factors. Is the global financial downturn a factor in families’ decision making? Did women find that returning to work part time or after a break of a year or more meant they were on the ‘mommy track’, and they were taken less seriously in their careers? What about the fact that jobs with flexibility to allow for care work are the lower paying jobs? Is the increase in marketing of products and services to babies and young children a factor? Do mothers find satisfaction tending their children more intensively than past generations? Do mothers approach their child rearing more as a family branding exercise, or are mothers applying the skills they’ve learnt in business, academia and the workplace? Lets also look to other countries with comparable social policies. Are their mothers feeling guilty too? And why aren’t we looking at men’s roles in families and work? Are they downshifting and baby wearing? Are men concerned about their work/life balance and feeling guilty?

I disagree with her view about the green movement. We need to move towards sustainability in all areas of our lives, and to not consider this is naive at best. What’s the point of having children if the planet they inherit is unable to sustain human life? And what about community involvement and having a say in broader issues? As Erica Jong says, ‘Aspiring to be perfect parents seems like a pathetic attempt to control what we can while ignoring problems that seem beyond our reach.’

What Elisabeth Badinter is saying is similar to what I said in my article of April 2004, so it’s nothing new to me. Does intensive mothering take a lot from women, when the outcomes are unproven and, perhaps not truly related to the input? Would mothers’ energy be better spent doing something else? Something that wields more power, personally, collectively and politically? Is intensive mothering a step backwards for feminism? Did our feminist mothers work for women's rights so we could mother more intensively?

Or is Badinter just jumping on the mother bashing bandwagon?

What do you think?

I’d better read the book (which I feel like I’ve already read), then report back.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Feminist action now - Jan 2012

Two feminist stories from the Guardian.

Remember how, in the UK, after the News of the World scandal, there was going to be a media inquiry? Well, it’s happening. It’s called the Levenson Inquiry, and a group a feminist activists have just presented to them the ways in which women are unfairly depicted in the media, and what can be done to address gender inequality in the media. They talked about page 3 girls, women shown naked or near naked (one piece of evidence was censored to present to the inquiry, even though it was not censored when published in the newspaper), and how media reporting perpetuates myths about rape, and blames victims.

‘Four groups – Eaves, End Violence Against Women, Object and Equality Now – called on Leveson to back a ban on sexualised images in newspapers, arguing they would not be broadcast on television before the 9pm watershed.
The groups also accused some media outlets of perpetuating myths about rape, which they argued could prevent victims reporting the crime, and called for a tougher regulatory body. "The media creates, reflects and enforces attitudes in society," said Marai Larasi from End Violence Against Women, a coalition of 40 women's organisations. "Those who work in the media should be conscious of this and should actively seek not to reproduce attitudes which condone violence against women or girls."’


The World Economic Forum meets annually in Davis, Switzerland. So, how many women are involved in these meetings where global decisions are made? Not enough.

‘Despite a new quota system demanding that the largest members send one woman for every four men, just 17% of the 2,500 delegates are female. Despite a push to encourage more women on to panels to discuss the issues of the day, just 20% of those invited to do so are women. The majority of panels, especially on key economic topics, are still dominated by (white) men.
Although the days are long gone when one female delegate was asked to leave an event because security assumed she must be a spouse without the required permit, the majority of the women in Davos are not there as participants. Only newcomers to Davos seem to consider this fact remarkable, with the odd feminist exception such as Helen Clark. The former prime minister of New Zealand turned administrator of the United Nations Development Programme called the female participation rate "pathetic". The leader who appointed so many senior women to her cabinet that Benetton ran an airport advertising campaign welcoming visitors to the "women's republic of New Zealand" called for organisers to commit to the millennium development goal of 30% female participation by 2015. "Or why not next year? They should just go and look for the women. In one stroke, participation would go up."
There is little support for such intervention among organisers, who argue that Davos merely reflects a world in which women lead just 3% of the biggest companies in the US and UK and make up 17% of its parliaments. Saadia Zahidi, the WEF's head of constituents who is spearheading the gender programme, calls this the "external glass ceiling" about which an annual meeting of top people can do nothing.
Roger Carr, the chairman of Centrica who is leading efforts to get more women appointed to British boards, agrees. "Davos is a special place populated by the most senior decision makers. The fact is that the number of women in that position is quite small. Davos is just the symptom of something that happened way, way back." Centrica sends just two delegates and both the chief executive and chairman happen to be men.’


Friday, January 27, 2012

The Equality Illusion: The Truth about Women and Men Today - Kat Banyard

After the controversy of the last two weeks, I’ve stepped up my reading of this book. Kat Banyard wrote it at the age of 25; it was published in 2010. She became a feminist at university, and has worked in grassroots organisations, helping refugee women, organising feminist conferences, and is a leading campaigner for women’s rights in the UK.

Here’s what she says about choice feminism.

‘ … it is crucial to that we don’t fall into the conceptual trap of confusing a process (choice) with feminism’s aim (ending the subordination of women). This produces a dead-end situation whereby almost anything can be justified as feminist simply by identifying that individual choice’ and ‘agency’ were involved. … But the question must always be: what impact does the practice have on gender relations as a whole? Does it help end the subordination of women - or does it further perpetuate it? That is the litmus test.’ (p 206)

She presents statistics to prove how unequal women are in the modern world, and not just white middle class women, but takes a global view, considering class, race, religion and everything. She reports on the grassroots feminist activity currently happening in the UK, by both young women and by men. A lot of the feminist action taken by young women is about the sexualisation of women as presented in mainstream media, and an objection to women being seen as sex objects in men’s clubs, lad’s mags, and advertisements. In short, young women in the UK are doing the same kind of work that Melinda Tankard Reist is doing through her Collective Shout organisation in Australia, resisting the movement to normalise pornography in our culture.

I’m interested to see she supports policies Sweden implemented in 1999 to criminalise the purchase of sex, and minimalise demands for a sex industry. Sweden also offers support for women to exit the industry. After the 1994 election, 45% of parliamentarians were women, so feminist issues were on the agenda. The new laws resulted in a decrease in trafficking and organised crime, and, the entry of women into prostitution almost stopped.

Banyard sees countries following suit (Iceland, Norway, France, and campaigns in the UK to do the same) as on the right track.

Today, it is Rwanda that has the highest proportion of women parliamentarians in the world, at 58% of seats. UNICEF reports that women holding 30% of parliamentary seats constitutes a critical mass that allow real action on issues of gender. Of the twenty two countries that have reached this level of female representation, eighteen used quotas.

She covers gender inequality and education in the west (the acceptance of sexual harassment in schools, and segregation in sport) and in developing countries (in South Africa a girl has a greater chance of being raped than of learning to read). She covers reproductive rights and the mother penalty, including the sticky floor of women’s work that allows them flexibility to care for children (cleaning, caring, clerical work, cashiering, catering). She covers body image, domestic violence, and interviews workers in the sex industry. (‘It’s hard to have a voice when you have a cock thrust down your throat.’) She says men like lap-dancing clubs because there are places where they can pretend feminism never happened.

I recommend the book to anyone who want to know what feminism is about today, as a first introduction or a way to engage with the big picture issues. It is book filled with hope. It is one of the better books on feminism that I’ve read.

The Year Starts Now

The holidays are over. We’ve caught up with friends, slept in and lounged around at home. We listened to Free To Be You and Me, and watched Singin’ in the Rain and My Family and Other Animals. We swam at the pool. We should be well rested.

But when I think about how much I plan to cram into the year, I feel like going back to bed. I’m doing three units at uni each semester, including teaching pracs. Starting a part time job. Some volunteering - teaching ethics and helping organise the Mamapalooza festival. I’m not on a management committee nor writing a cookbook, nor making things for a fete. I hope to be doing less volunteering at school. I’ll be taking up walking and swimming and stretching at home and giving up late night tv and reading blogs by people I don’t know.

The children’s activities have stepped up a notch. I told them years ago that they could do anything run at school, not realising just how much our school offers in extra-curricula activities, and now, well, they do a lot.

I’ve learned that I’m better on nine hours sleep than seven.

Matilda tells me I should filling the freezer with muffins for lunchboxes and dinners for when we come home late. She wants us to cull about half our possessions, before Monday. I guess the things we haven’t used in six weeks at home are things we don’t need to keep. And she wants us to join an eco challenge. We’re already pretty green, but, of course, we could do better.

I’m just hoping that we plod along according to schedule. No surprises. No fevers or falls or family emergencies, or any of the life changing events that happen when you are part of a family, with members young and old. Not this year. Or next. Can I just postpone the dramas for a year or two? Laugh at me now, but it is possible, isn’t it? Not probable. But possible?

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

A feminist event!

Thanks to my friend Michelle for telling me about this.


Separate sessions with Germaine Greer, and Naomi Wolf, then they join a forum discussion led by Jenny Brockie, with Clem Bastow and Eliza Griswold.

Seems like a much more grown up event than the last, stupid one I attended at the Opera House. I'm looking forward to a bigger, broader, more global conversation.

I'd like to go!

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Mum thinks it is ok to break the law, because she's a mum

Jacinta Tynan, who wrote a piece when her first baby was six months old, saying how motherhood was easy and why do people complain about how hard it is, has now written a piece saying she considers herself exempt from the road rules because she has two children. Reading this, I thought she was being ironic, or sarcastic, but no. She genuinely believes she has the right to break the law, because she has kids.

'To the parking inspector who tried to slap a ticket on me the other day: an apology. I was in a clearly marked No Stopping zone and you didn't deserve my teary tirade. You had every right to threaten to call the police and to call for backup from not one but two supervisors. It's just that I had two children in the back of the car and I thought that bought me dispensation.

Ever since I became a mother, I have learnt to cut corners, ignoring not just traffic signs but all manner of procedures designed to make life easier because in my state they no longer do, and I brazenly now consider myself exempt. Surely No Stopping means unless you have babies on board and are attempting to drop off stuff at St Vincent de Paul, as I was. Surely parking limits don't apply when ferrying children to the park. Why can't I jump to the front of the Jetstar check-in when I have a baby in my Björn? Don't mums deserve to bypass the queue at Woolies?'

...At least that nice parking inspector understood. Much to my surprise, I was issued with a warning for that blatant misdemeanour. I won't park there again, I promise. But what a treat to have my circumstances taken into account.

I'm thinking she would be a parent who feels she has the right to break the road rules when dropping off or picking up her kids at daycare or school,even though they would endanger other people.

For the last six years I've been tearing my hair out most mornings and afternoons seeing parents break the road rules around the school. People who park on the crossing, or do a u turn on the crossing, or park in the No Stopping zones by the crossings. Drivers pulling into the school driveways while children are walking into or out of the school gates. The most dangerous part of our walk to and from school is using the school crossings. For six years I've sat on the P&C and we've regularly talked about ways to convince parents it is a good idea to follow the road rules around the school. We've talked about walking to school. Leaving five minutes earlier. Road safety. Explaining the reasons for the road rules. Setting a good example. Being seen by the members of the community as someone who obeys the law. We've called in the police and the parking police. When they are present on one side of the school, people just break the law on the other side of the school. We've collected the rego numbers of the cars whose drivers break the law, and phoned them through to the police. I keep suggesting that we ask for tax audits for all the parents who continually break the law around the school, but the Principal says no.

The comments on the piece are mostly about the parking spots for parents in shopping centres, and the usual parents feel entitled/what about childfree adults who pick up the pieces to and fro.

I feel like I felt when Fifi Box announced on The Panel that she doesn't vote - she sends her mother to vote for her. Shame on her, when so many women have fought for women's rights. Jacinta Tynan: you are giving mothers a bad name. Breaking the law is breaking the law. You have not the right to break any law that may seem inconvenient to you. I hope when your children are at school that you don't endanger other children because you feel your time is more precious than other people's lives. You should have been issued with a parking ticket.


Monday, January 23, 2012

Rachel Hills on the reaction to her piece on MTR.

A response from Rachel Hills on the controversy her piece on Melinda Tankard Reist has sparked over the last two weeks. All the links are here in her piece. I've found I'm not so out of step afterall with the feminists I'd been reading online last week. Phew. Glad that it has opened up a public discussion on what feminism is, and that I've learned, well, lots - mostly to make no presumptions about people's definitions of feminism.

I was wondering what her response would be.


And, by the way, this, by Cathy Sherry, is what my friends and I agree with.


SMH are running a poll with the article. So far, most voters agree that women who oppose abortion have the right to call themselves feminist.

PS. The polling of 2307 people results 55% to 45% in favour of women who oppose abortion having the right to call themselvs feminists.

Feminism and sex work: should women be for sale?

There is an advertising campaign in Ireland at the moment to raise awareness about the rights of sex workers. The campaign seeks to present sex workers as ordinary healthy people, who have children and pay their mortgage, and who don’t deserve the stigma and discrimination sex workers face. The campaign is in response to the movement to ban sex work in Ireland, called Turn off the Red Light.

The movement to ban sex work has been growing in Europe.

France is joining other European countries such as Sweden, Norway and Iceland, in making the buying of sex illegal. This means the client will be charged, fined and/or imprisoned. Iceland has also banned sex clubs and profits from nudity, so, no lapdancing and no topless waitressing. Sex trafficking has declined. The prime minister of Iceland is a lesbian woman who was a single mother for eleven years until she married her partner. Same sex marriage is legal. Almost half the parliamentarians in Iceland are female. The passing of these laws in Iceland is seen as a feminist victory. Iceland is considered the best place in the world to be a woman. For two years it has topped the World Economic Forum’s report on gender equality. Its policy on domestic violence states that the person who committed the violence must leave the home. They have strong supports for families, with maternal and paternal leave, and affordable child care. From 2013 corporations will be obliged to have at least 40% of each gender on their boards. Sweden and Norway are also well known for their socially progressive policies that support gender equality.

The message is clear. Women are not for sale. Women are worthy of respect. It’s an attractive idea. It’s a message one would hope would infiltrate all through society so that women are portrayed in a respectful manner, from boardrooms to billboards, from t shirts to video games. The message, from high office, that women should be respected, with supporting policies in all fields (health, work, education, justice) is a feminist dream come true.

However, some object to the move to ban sex work, saying it will simply make prostitution more dangerous for sex workers. This is an issue in Australia too.

Scarlett Alliance, the Australian Sex Workers’ Alliance, says that the legislation currently proposed by the NSW government to move from a decriminalisation model to a licensing model of regulation will drive many currently law abiding sex workers into the illegal sector. The licensing model as it has been implemented in Victoria and Queensland has not resulted in the expected outcomes. It results in very low compliance and means that sex workers are further marginalised and vulnerable. The current model of decriminalisation is lobbied for by sex workers throughout the world as the only model of sex industry regulation that supports sex workers’ rights, and encourages good health and safety practices.

Feminism is not only about protecting women who may be vulnerable, but about listening to the voices of women about their own experience and own needs. Sex workers have rights just as any workers do. (And it isn’t only women who work in the sex industry.)

But does legalising prostitution legitimise the trading of women for sex? It is possible for legal brothels to engage in the criminal activity of keeping sex slaves and accepting trafficked women. How best to reduce the illegal activity? Should campaigns focus on reducing demand for sexual services and protecting those who choose to work in the sex industry? Is it OK for educated women who have real options to choose to do sex work, but not OK for uneducated women or drug addicted women, or those who have no options, and those we could be helping? Would women choose sex work if they had well paying options with real work flexibility?

It is difficult to think about sex workers in the west without thinking about sex work in developing countries, and how many girls and women are traded/forced/raped/abused sexually. Often, for them, being in the sex industry isn’t a choice.

Many people around the world are working in advocacy and agency, investing in women and girls in developing countries to assist their families’ and communities’ move out of poverty and into dignity. Women working as health workers in rural communities; who insist on being part of peace talks; working to help the 1100 women a day who are raped in the Democratic Republic of Congo; who work with infant and maternal health in developing countries; who help women and girls escape the sex trade, are taking feminist action. They are working for the basic rights of women. Does that include the right to earn a living in the sex industry?

In fifty years which idea will be so obvious to us that we cannot believe we contemplated anything else; the idea that women are not for sale, or the idea that sex workers have rights? Or is it possible for us as a society to agree with the clear message that is a little more complex; that all women deserve respect, even women who choose to do sex work?

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Was Margaret Thatcher a Feminist?

This is nice. I ask a question and the internet answers. Well, Rachel Hills, on the other side of the world, answers.

A feminist, in my view, is a person interested in the politics of being female (my personal interest is in the politics of gender, but I’m willing to let people with an interest in women only slide here); someone who believes in gender equality and pursues policies and philosophies with that end in mind.

Her war-starting, union-busting proclivities aside, Thatcher wasn’t a feminist for the simple reason that she had no interest in the politics of gender, little interest in pursuing policies with equality (of outcome or opportunity) in mind, and as far as I’ve read, little interest in the structural factors that contribute to inequality of opportunity or outcome. Not to mention that she notoriously said that she “owed nothing to women’s lib”.

But can other conservative or religious women call themselves feminists? Sure – if they believe that the policies they’re pursuing are the path to gender equality. And note well: that doesn’t mean you have to like them, or agree with them on everything (or anything, for that matter).

There are plenty of issues I disagree with other feminists on. I disagree with Germaine Greer on trans people. I disagree with Naomi Wolf’s handling of the Julian Assange sexual assault case. I disagree with the woman I met at the Feminism In London conference who basically said that all men were rapists. Equally, there are left wing feminists who I think privately engage in ways that are destructive to “the movement”, despite agreeing with the views they put out into the public arena. Just as the left don’t have a monopoly on feminism, the right don’t have a monopoly on crappy politics.

Yay for diversity in feminism. Yes, for interest in the politics of gender, and interest in equality, however one may go about pursuing that interest.


Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Feminism is tricky

Here are the issues I’ve been thinking about.

I wrote a piece about the move in Europe towards banning the selling of sex, and the message that women are not for sale (a feminist victory), and that this movement is being opposed by sex workers who are lobbying for their rights to work within policies that protect their health and safety (feminist sex workers). (My sister is a health worker who works with sex workers.)

I’ve read about the Lingerie Football League, where women play American Football wearing very little and for free. Some feminists say this is demeaning to women and should be stopped. Some say better that women play sport themselves than just cheer for male sportsmen (even though cheerleaders are paid), and that if women choose to do this, they have the right.

I read the profile piece on Melinda Tankard Reist. What she stands for, and other feminists who oppose what she stands for. I agree with Melinda Tankard Reist on some issues, and disagree on others. I’m glad for the work she does about sexuality, children and pornography and the issues she raises for public discussion. I’ll add the links at the bottom of the post, but this conversation, for me, raises more question than it answers.

Abortion is never pleasant. It is violence that women choose when they are in a situation where they are pregnant but can’t see themselves raising a child, or raising another child. I agree that we need to talk more about the social context. Why is raising children only the concern of women? Why is our society structured in such a way that for a women to have a baby changes her whole life, who she is and what she can do? Why are men and the greater societal structure never discussed in the abortion debate? I’m not anti-abortion. I’m saying we need to look at context and move away form the yes/no arguments. Of course nobody should force a pregnant woman to have a child. If men and the greater society want a say in women’s reproduction, then men and the greater society need to create a world where women can have children without penalty. (And the mother penalty is a whole other post.)

Nora Ephron says you can’t call yourself a feminist if you don’t believe in the right to abortion. Wow. In my book you are a feminist if you believe in equal rights for women. If you call yourself a feminist, then you are, even though your feminism might be different from mine..Ephron is making a big call there. I’m not prepared to back her. At the f collective conference there was a motion (it wasn’t a meeting with an agenda or constitution) declaring Tankard Reist to not be a feminist. It felt dangerous and wrong for me. No evidence. No right of reply. I don’t think anyone has the authority to decide who is feminist and who isn’t.

Leslie Cannold says she can’t support Tankard Reist’ work because of her former work with former Tasmanian senator, Brian Harradine. On that basis, we wouldn’t talk to anyone we don’t have everything in common with. And how thoroughly do we know everybody we encounter anyway? I’d be pretty lonely if I only hung out with feminist atheist greenies/white mid-forties mothers, or only with people who had never done anything I disagreed with. I’d be pretty lonely if I had to disclose everything I’d ever done with every new acquaintance. I’m prepared to focus on commonalities. I don't see anyone dismiss what Eva Cox says on the basis that she lobbied for the privitisation of child care, which she admits was a mistake(personal conversation). How about playing the ball and not the player?

And here are the questions that really make me think.

Does one type of feminism have the right to over-rule what other women can or can’t do, for the common good? In the case of sex work or Lingerie Football League? Or is that too much like the patriarchy, telling women what they can and can't do?

And the point made by Eva Cox.

‘As high-profile second-waver Eva Cox puts it, it’s about the difference between “a view of feminism in which choices and opportunities are not determined by gender” – a group in which Cox includes herself – and “one that wants to protect women, whether it be from men, from sexuality or something else”, the world view she suspects Tankard Reist subscribes to.’

So, what kind of feminist am I? A bit of both?

I’ve been reading Cordelia Fine’s Delusions of Gender: The Real Science Behind Sex Difference. Dr Fine is an Australian cognitive neuroscientist. Here’s what she says.

About how stereotype threat affects performance on tests.

‘This can be done in disquiteningly naturalistic ways. Stereotype threat effects have been seen in women who: record their sex at the beginning of a quantitative test...; are in the minority as they take the test; have just watched women acting in air-headed ways in commercials, or have instructors or peers who hold - consciously or otherwise - sexist attitudes. (31-32)
‘Ads that trade in ditzy stereotypes of women also...reduce women’ interest in taking on a leadership role. Male and female university students were equally interested in leading a group - except for women exposed to the gender-stereotyped commercials, who were more likely to choose a nonleadership role instead.’ (43)

We already know that men seeing depictions of women treated callously, impersonally, as sex objects, means that they next treat women with less respect than they otherwise would. Even businesswomen are seen as less competent by men or boys who have just watched women in pornography, listened to misogynistic lyrics or played misogynistic video games (from the Growing Up Fat and Furious Conference). But if seeing women being ditzy impacts on women who don’t want to be ditzy, then we have a problem. So, perhaps we do need to overrule what some women want for the sake of all women. But, on the other hand, there will always be people who are giving their group a bad name, whether they be women, men, by nationality or religion. You can’t legislate against behaviour you might consider to be stupid or silly or demeaning. Can you? Or is it better to accept that all groups contain an infinite variety of individuals and we should stop categorising people, if that is possible?

So much more to talk about.

Okay, I have to go tend to my children now. But if you see me at the pool, this is what I want to talk about. All comments welcome.


Summer Staycation: January is a round tuit

We’ve stayed home these holidays. It means I’ve had time to do the things I haven’t had time to do during the year, knowing that once school starts we’ll be crazy busy once again. So, January is when I can get around to all the jobs I’ve said I’ll do when I get around to it.

I have steam cleaned the kitchen floor (Cyberguy found a steam cleaner in its box on the street - only the fabric cover was missing so I wrapped cloth nappies about it, held them with elastic bands, and Bob’s your uncle), vacuumed under the beds (and learned that even when I’m lying flat on the floor with the vacuum cleaner a child will say ‘Muuum’), cleaned out the kitchen cupboards, the pots and pans and cookbooks, done the mending - what a relief to get rid of the pile of mending - but I haven’t finished all the darning, yet. It all should make the school year run more efficiently.

And it means a chance to catch up with friends. Now I know that the local school friends use this time to see other people, and I have to remind the children that we aren’t their number one priority at the moment (in fact, we might just be handy locals to hang out with). So we try to see the friends who aren’t in our usual schooltime loop. Like last year I’ve organised three open house sessions on weekends, so that people can drop in if they are available. Because it is hard to keep track of who is where during the holidays - most people go away sometime - I figure this is an efficient way to do it. If people can’t come, at least they know that I’m interested in socialising with them. And it means that we clean up the house really well every week.

We’ve been hanging out at the pool. The children are nearly old enough that they can play in the big pool while I swim laps. I’ve been waiting for this for nearly twelve years. They are old enough that they can play in the kids’ pool and I don’t have to get in with them, as I have done for about ten years. But if they are in the big pool, Banjo can only just stand up in the shallow end, and I need to watch her. Matilda can now swim laps. I’m keen to join her.

And we’ve been having playdates. The kids now organise themselves and I can do other things. I used to plan the playdates and set up activities for them. Now they can even cook with their friends with minimal supervision. They’re at a lovely age. They’ve settled into the holidays enough that a game can go on for hours, and be taken up the following day.

I’m planning that we can do a few excursions before the holidays are over, because they really haven’t done much. These are the children who, when I suggested one holiday that we go to Luna Park that day, said no, they were busy playing in the backyard. But they’ll need something to write about their first week back at school, other than listing the books they’ve read, so we’d better go somewhere and do something.

So how about you? How are your holidays going? Do you schedule activities or just go with the flow?

Sunday, January 08, 2012

Campaign against Typo porn

Another day, another campaign against pornograghy.

Now it is the stationery shop, Typo (owned by Cotton On), that has a product line, called Dirty, depicting women as sex objects on drink bottles, notebooks and iphone covers.

Leave a comment on a their Facebook page.

Or sign here.


Wednesday, January 04, 2012

Extreme Parental Guidance: Sleep

I watched this program this week. Supernanny Jo Frost helping parents to guide their children’s behaviour, so that family life is bearable, or even pleasant. You know the drill. But this new version includes studies by academics.

In this episode there was a sleep study conducted on nine children. They went to bed at 11pm for a week, then underwent a series of tests. They scored at levels three years below their ages.

Then, for a week, they went to bed at 7.30, lights out at 8pm, with no electronics in the bedroom. Undergoing the same tests, they scored at two years above their ages.

The academic said that instead of sending children to coaching colleges, parents could simply send the children to bed earlier.

Like adults, children aren’t ready to learn, to think, to behave well, when they are tired. They get overstimulated, overtired, jittery, and find it hard to focus.

As my friend says, it isn’t rocket science.

How are women going?

This is one of those posts where I’ve read a few a things lately that seems to add up to a bigger picture about how women are going.

The commenters might be more informed and intelligent than the writer of the original article here, about how women have fared in 2011(briefly). The only part worth repeating is the stat that although women make up 40% of the world’s workforce, they own 1% of the wealth. This and the following comments about how religious women might be complicit with keeping women from power.

‘Having been part of the womens rights movement in the 60's it seems that we have lost more than we've gained. I was in Iran before the Shah was deposed and when women had equal rights , educated, received good medical care and were proud participants of government and business alike. I was in Israel where I was beaten up for not being an Israeli born Jewess, I was beaten and raped in Pakistan for being a white woman. In all this I had not yet turned 16. Still this is nothing compared to the scape-goating that women are receiving now in most parts of the world due to the abuse of power, religious fundamentalism and educational decline. Why are those in such positions of power so intent on keeping women from participating and decision making - what are they afraid of ? This is now a global catastrophy - look at our world now. What have women done to deserve this? I despair for us, now and the generations to come. Where are all you ladies of the sixties ? What did we fight for .... this !!!!! Come on women and all enlighted people everywhere and all you pioneers of the 60's. We didnt go through all that for women to be so abused and mistreated on every conceivable human level and practically all over the world. Forget the politicians - they are limited. We need a new kind of people powered women's revolution to aid our sisters the world over. I would start one if I knew more about tweets facebook etc, alas I am a uselss old maid when it comes to technology (I've only just mastered this comment stuff)- but I am sure there are those of you out there that can start a new womens social revolution to protect our sisters who suffer these dispicable outrages against their person and their fundamental human rights and liberty. Someone somewhere lets get together and take ACTION. Everyone women is important in this world and they need our help. All feasable constructive and ingenious ideas welcome.’


Then I read Leslie Cannold's piece about gender equality under secular and religious law.


And this piece from the site Women's Views News about the latest stats on gender equity in various countries.


And a piece by man who writes for The Huffington Post about how women are put down by men, and a strategy he calls gaslighting, which belittles women's instincts and opinions.


All very well to identify the problems. I can understand the frustration of the commenter who was part of the women's movement in the 60s and despairs at the lack of progress. Where to from here?